Immigration is to become the primary driver of population growth in the United States by the middle of the century, according to Census Bureau projections that were released yesterday, overtaking national population growth for the very first time since records started to be kept.
Without even a very low level of immigration, the United States would soon find itself facing the same kind of demographic time-bomb awaiting countries such as Italy and Japan, where population decline is being caused by dangerously low fertility rates. This would prove to be disastrous for pension and health programs that are reliant on the taxpaying population growing for them to be able to remain solvent.
“Ever since the baby boom, we’ve been a fertility driven population,” says Brooking Institution demographer Bill Frey. “But these projections show a substantial decline in fertility in the US, underscoring the importance of immigration if we’re going to have reasonable population growth.” Population projections were released by the Census Bureau at the close of last year but it published a brand new set of alternatives yesterday, showing what could happen to the population as a result of different levels of immigration.
It is an especially topical exercise given that Congress is currently considering legislation intended to give the US immigration system a comprehensive overhaul for the first time in more than 20 years, which is intended to offer a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the country.